Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the province will relax some COVID-19 measures starting Jan. 17, lifting the province’s nighttime curfew and allowing students to return to in-person learning.
The premier said on Jan. 13 that COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the province will reach a peak “in the next coming days,” according to public health experts.
“This means that the measures we put in place have worked. We’re going in the right direction,” Legault said in a press conference, adding that the public should remain “very careful” as the number of hospital admissions remains high and could still rise over the coming days.
Legault said the province will lift the nighttime 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on Jan. 17, which has been in place since New Year’s Eve. The Quebec government had imposed a similar curfew for five months, from January to May 2021.
He also said students will return to school for in-person learning on Jan. 17. Legault said the decision was “very important for our children,” reassuring parents that self-tests will be distributed in schools.
The premier first made the return-to-school announcement on Jan. 12, citing the public health’s approval for opening primary and secondary schools. Junior colleges and universities will also be permitted to reopen on Jan. 17.
“It’s very important for the children to go back to school, to learn, to find their friends, to find some normality,” Legault wrote on Facebook on Jan. 12.
The premier said about 98 percent of high school-aged students in the province have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 89 percent have received two doses.
Legault also announced public health measures will tighten for certain public settings in the province.
As of Jan. 24, vaccination against COVID-19 will now be mandatory for large indoor retail settings of more than 1500 square metres, with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, which are deemed essential.
Legault cited Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, and Costco as examples of big box stores that would be included in the new rules.
“It’s simple,” he said in French, “if it’s bigger than 1,500 square meters, they have to enforce it.”
The Quebec government said last week that it would extend the vaccine passport to liquor and cannabis stores on Jan. 18.
Legault also announced earlier this week that the province will make unvaccinated adult residents pay a “significant” financial penalty for refusing the jab, making it the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.
Quebec reported 8,793 new cases of COVID-19 on Jan. 13. The Health Department said 2,994 people were in hospital with COVID-19, with 443 people admitted in the previous 24 hours, and 326 patients discharged. There are 272 people are in intensive care, a rise of nine from the day before. The province saw 45 more COVID-19-related deaths on Jan. 13.